USA / Saudi Arabien

Gates Lauds U.S. Efforts to Boost Sau­di Mil­i­tary Capac­i­ty Amer­i­can Forces Press Service 

ESKAN VILLAGE, Sau­di Ara­bia, May 6, 2009 — Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates today called the men­tor­ship that U.S. forces are pro­vid­ing the Sau­di Ara­bi­an mil­i­tary a key fac­tor in main­tain­ing sta­bil­i­ty in the region and an exam­ple of the capac­i­ty-build­ing efforts he’d like to see more of else­where in the world. 

Gates held a town hall ses­sion with a few hun­dred res­i­dents of this com­plex south of Riyadh that’s served since 1996 as the base for U.S. forces assigned to the U.S. Mil­i­tary Train­ing Mis­sion to Sau­di Ara­bia and the Office of the Pro­gram Man­ag­er-Sau­di Ara­bi­an Nation­al Guard. 

With about 800 U.S. mem­bers total, about 500 of them mil­i­tary advi­sors, the orga­ni­za­tions focus on help­ing to build and mod­ern­ize capa­bil­i­ty with­in the Sau­di armed forces and Sau­di nation­al guard, explained Air Force Maj. Gen. Paul M. “Dutch” Van Sick­le, USMTM-SA com­man­der. The troops lend exper­tise in train­ing, sup­ply, main­te­nance, oper­a­tions, med­ical, con­struc­tion, equip­ment field­ing and oth­er relat­ed activities. 

Gates empha­sized the impor­tance of what these troops — many of whom have served in Iraq or Afghanistan — do in the big Mid­dle East secu­ri­ty picture. 

“I want to tell you that although you do not work in a direct com­bat zone, your mis­sion remains essen­tial to America’s secu­ri­ty,” he told a crowd of sev­er­al hun­dred ser­vice­mem­bers and Defense Depart­ment civil­ian employ­ees who packed an audi­to­ri­um here. “Mul­ti­ple admin­is­tra­tions of both par­ties, includ­ing all eight pres­i­dents I have worked for, have believed that America’s pros­per­i­ty and secu­ri­ty is close­ly tied to the pros­per­i­ty and secu­ri­ty of this part of the world.” 

Gates, who arrived here yes­ter­day to dis­cuss mutu­al secu­ri­ty issues with the Sau­di lead­er­ship, said the rela­tion­ship between the Unit­ed States and Sau­di Ara­bia “has been one of the main­stays of sta­bil­i­ty in the Mid­dle East for more than 60 years.” 

The U.S. secu­ri­ty mis­sion in Sau­di Ara­bia dates back to the 1940s, he not­ed, with Sau­di Ara­bia remain­ing an impor­tant part­ner on a broad range of secu­ri­ty issues. 

Gates praised the role of the U.S. Mil­i­tary Train­ing Mis­sion to Sau­di Ara­bia and the Office of the Pro­gram Man­ag­er-Sau­di Ara­bi­an Nation­al Guard — known as OPM-SANG — in increas­ing Sau­di mil­i­tary capabilities. 

Army Brig. Gen. Christo­pher Tuck­er, the pro­gram man­ag­er, said the men­tors bring com­bat expe­ri­ence from Iraq and Afghanistan and impor­tant lessons learned to the mis­sion that they, in turn, share with the Sau­di military. 

“The Sau­di armed forces have become a more pro­fes­sion­al and effec­tive orga­ni­za­tion, due to the work of the U.S. mil­i­tary train­ing mis­sion,” Gates said, not­ing its plan­ning, orga­ni­za­tion­al, train­ing and equip­ment support. 

In addi­tion, the OPM-SANG mis­sion is help­ing to mod­ern­ize the Sau­di nation­al guard as it devel­ops into “a more full-spec­trum force,” he said. 

Gates cit­ed a new devel­op­ment with­in OPM-SANG, in which it will help to train and equip a new Sau­di secu­ri­ty assis­tance force to focus specif­i­cal­ly on pro­tect­ing the country’s oil, water, elec­tric­i­ty and oth­er infra­struc­ture. These forces, to be assigned to the Sau­di Inte­ri­or Min­istry, are pro­ject­ed to grow from about 5,000 to about 35,000 – “an ambi­tious and impres­sive effort,” Gates said. 

Mean­while, Gates cred­it­ed the 64th Air Expe­di­tionary Group based here, which, build­ing on work start­ed a gen­er­a­tion ago, “has built a for­mi­da­ble Sau­di air force and forged close mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary ties between our two air services.” 

“Your work here is … an exam­ple of the kind of capac­i­ty ‑build­ing effort that we would like to see more of by the U.S. mil­i­tary in oth­er parts of the world,” Gates told the group. “The Unit­ed States will increas­ing­ly look to rely more on the capa­bil­i­ties of our part­ners than direct U.S. mil­i­tary action to deal with the diverse array of secu­ri­ty challenges.” 

Those threats, he said, range from the tran­si­tion of respon­si­bil­i­ty to Iraqi forces to the ramp-up of mil­i­tary forces, as well as civil­ian ini­tia­tives in Afghanistan, the “poten­tial per­ils posed by Iran’s nuclear pro­gram” and the broad­er cam­paign against vio­lent ter­ror­ist networks. 

“All of those chal­lenges, to vary­ing degrees, are affect­ed by the work you do here to sus­tain and strength­en our part­ner­ship with Sau­di Ara­bia and build their secu­ri­ty capa­bil­i­ties,” Gates told the group. “They pro­vide a cru­cial mea­sure of sta­bil­i­ty and deter­rence in the Gulf.” 

Gates cit­ed changes ahead in the train­ing and men­tor­ing mis­sions here: the change of Sau­di Ara­bia from a com­bat to a non­com­bat duty area des­ig­na­tion, the oppor­tu­ni­ty for adult fam­i­ly mem­bers to accom­pa­ny ser­vice­mem­bers assigned here and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of build­ing a new train­ing compound. 

Also on the hori­zon is the poten­tial sale of more U.S. mil­i­tary equip­ment to Sau­di Arabia. 

Gates told reporters after the town hall meet­ing that he shares the Saud­is’ frus­tra­tion about the slug­gish pace of the for­eign mil­i­tary sales pro­gram. “It’s not just a prob­lem here in Sau­di Ara­bia,” he said. “It’s a prob­lem in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and any­where we want to sell systems.” 

Gates said he intends to get to the bot­tom of that ques­tion to find out what reg­u­la­to­ry, pol­i­cy or bureau­crat­ic obsta­cles stand in the way of “get­ting weapons into the hands of our friends and allies far faster than we are able to do now.” 

“And I have some sug­ges­tions,” he said. 

Gates said he also talked with the Saud­is about Pak­istan, and “what more we can all do togeth­er to strength­en the sup­port to the civil­ian gov­ern­ment” there. He also encour­aged more Sau­di diplo­mat­ic engage­ment with Iraq, includ­ing assign­ing a Sau­di ambas­sador there. 

The dis­cus­sions with the Saud­is also touched on the pos­si­bil­i­ty of trans­fer­ring Yemeni detainees at Guan­tanamo Bay to Sau­di repa­tri­a­tion pro­grams, but Gates said the talks were gen­er­al in nature and no deci­sions were made. “I did­n’t ask them to do any­thing, and they did­n’t vol­un­teer,” he said. 

Troops at Eskan Vil­lage said they were grat­i­fied that Gates took time to see their oper­a­tion firsthand. 

“It shows the val­ue of the mis­sion and the impor­tance of it,” said Army Maj. Michael Elliott, a med­ical advi­sor who has been train­ing and advis­ing Sau­di mil­i­tary med­ical forces for the past year. “It rein­forces that this mis­sion is impor­tant and a key ele­ment in the fight on terrorism.” 

Army Maj. Eric Fowler, a men­tor here who has deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, said the mis­sion under­scores U.S. inter­est in help­ing part­ner mil­i­taries build capac­i­ty. “We want to raise their capa­bil­i­ties so they’re bet­ter able to pro­vide for their own secu­ri­ty,” he said. “We want them to be capa­ble and competent.” 

Wes Farmer, a Depart­ment of the Army civil­ian who serves as exec­u­tive offi­cer for OPM-SANG, said Gates’ vis­it helps bring vis­i­bil­i­ty to a mis­sion that has gone rel­a­tive­ly over­looked in the shad­ow of oper­a­tions in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

“We’ve been here for 36 years as a mod­er­at­ing force for sta­bil­i­ty in the region,” he said. “It’s always great to have the senior lead­er­ship come show they appre­ci­ate the work we’re doing here.” 

Air Force Staff Sgt. Jonathan Fer­nan­dez, a com­mu­ni­ca­tor assigned to knowl­edge oper­a­tions here, said he hopes Gates takes home from his vis­it here one key mes­sage. “We are doing our job out here, and doing it right,” he said.

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →